The Zachary Chamber of Commerce tried something new at its Jan. 7 Lunch and Learn session — speed networking.
“You might think you don’t need to network or that you don’t have time, but everyone needs to network,” said Heather Prejean, Zachary Chamber director. “One day you’re going to need a new client, new vendor or even a new job. That’s when the networking you’ve already been doing will really pay off.”
The Zachary Chamber hosts a monthly business networking luncheon for the Baker, Baton Rouge, Zachary, and East and West Feliciana business communities, and chamber members, nonmembers and guests are invited to attend.
The luncheon features a guest speaker who discusses topics such as better ways to connect with clients, the latest in business technology or social media marketing for companies large and small.
The luncheons also allow brief, informational speeches by attendees about the businesses or companies they own or represent. These speakers are selected through random drawings.
Door prizes are given away and often feature promotional items of businesses represented at the luncheons.
At the recent Lunch and Learn, Prejean asked everyone to stand in a circle. Once a timer was started, she asked each person to talk with someone he or she was unfamiliar with or had never met or spoken to before. After three minutes, Prejean asked attendees to network with yet another unfamiliar person, and so on, until everyone in the room had spoken with four people they had never met.
“Networking can be thought of as a necessary evil sometimes,” Prejean said. “But you have to get to know people in business.”
Prior to the speed-networking exercise, Prejean offered these tips on networking:
Focus on giving rather than getting: What you have to give may have nothing to do with you or your business. Do you know someone who can help the person or a book he or she might like?
Be present: Be engaging with the person you are talking to; don’t break concentration or look around to see who else is in the room or what else is going on.
Listen more than you speak: The most interesting people to talk to are the ones who are the most interested in you.
Think long term versus short term: When you first meet someone, don’t push your agenda on him or her. Real relationships build over time.
Do not overcommit or feel guilty: When you go to a lot of conferences or events, you will meet plenty of people. It’s fine not to stay in touch with everyone. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
Be honest: Don’t make false promises or agree to do things just to be nice if you have no intention of following through.
Take action immediately: If you do agree to do something for someone, do it immediately.
Only say yes to things you really want to do: Do the things that really excite you. The best connections are with friends.
Zachary Chamber Lunch and Learn sessions are from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the Americana YMCA, 4200 Liberty Way, Zachary.
The next Lunch and Learn is Feb. 4. Chamber members pay $15 to attend; nonmembers pay $20.
Register online to attend the next luncheon by visiting zacharychamber.com.